Seal of Approval Winners, Fall 2011*

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Rollors (Rollors)
Tired of croquet and other oldfashioned lawn games? Well, give Rollors a try. Created by an Air Force veteran while stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, this game is something of a combination of shuffleboard, lawn bowling (or bocce ball), and horseshoes (except you don’t throw the pieces), and curling (remember that one from the winter olympics?) A little skill and a little luck, and can be played one-on-one or by two teams and is a great way for dads to spend some low-stress time with the kids. Ages 5 and up. www.rollors.net

Nanoblocks (Nanoblock)
Both dad and kids can spend time together building a variety of animals and architectural sites from around the world. Since many of the nanoblock sets represent well-know buildings, dads who enjoy architecture will enjoy the process and teaching kids about the original buildings. We also like the “nano-sized” price point that makes these easily a tenth the cost of the architecture collection of the major competitor. The one caveat is that these blocks truly are “nano” in size compared to the common Lego-style blocks. Nanoblocks require good eyesite and nimble fingers to control, but they are a good exercise of attention to detail and fine motor skills. They make a fun project for dads and kids to do together. Ages 6+. www.mynannoblock.com

Dollie & Me (Dollie & Me)
If you’re having trouble finding ways to connect and spend quality time with your daughhter, the Dollie & Me collection can help. First of all, there’s notihng like playing with dolls to give you a glimpse into what’s going on in her world. But beyond that, the 18-inch dolls themselves are (really) pretty cool too. One especially nice touch is that they come with with a matching outfit–including dresses, leggings, and nightgowns–for your daughter, saving you a trip or two to the store… www.dollieme.com

Fruitominoes(Bananagrams)
Have I mentioned that we love Bananagrams games around here? Well, we do–and Fruitominoes is no exception. A fantastic game for getting kids off the internet, gaming device, etc. to actually spend some quality time together! While a simple game to learn, it’s one of the original classics and will help children develop their strategic thinking chops while practicing math and visual skills. This game is completely gender neutral and would be great for dads to play with all of their children. Ages 5+. www.bananagrams.com

TWEENS AND TEENS

Air Picks (Flair)
Air Picks are pick-shaped sound systems that play the first few signature bars of famous rock songs. The key is that you have to strum the imaginary guitar in the same rhythm as the original song. The songs are so famous that you’d probably guess the song anyway, but the fun is to try to make them sound just like the originals. We put on the Rolling Stones “No Satisfaction” and were amazed at how the Air Picks sound meshed with what was coming out of the speakers. Collections include “Classic Rock, “Rebel Rock,” and Rolling Stones.” While toys like this can’t take the place of real musical training, they are a fun way for dads to transfer love and excitement for rock hits and the air guitar stylings kids have enjoyed since dad was a boy. The pricepoint is super-affordable and won’t break the bank. Just remember to take it outside when mom is home. Ages 10 and up. www.flairplc.co.uk

Finger Football (Zelo Sports)
My nephews are a rowdy, hard-to-settle-down-and-even-harder-to-please bunch. So when I brought Finger Football over to their house my expectations were pretty low. But two hours later, we were still playing the game and they refused to let me take it when I left. Fortunately, I have a second one. Fantastic fun for dads and kids of both sexes. Other games in the series include Finger Soccer, Finger Baseball, and Finger Golf. Ages 9 and up. www.zelosport.com/

Wii Play Motion (Nintendo)
We really like new Wii Play Motion, a new Nintendo game that is similar in style and play to Wii Sports Resort and Wii Party. Dads and kids will enjoy 12 games that get everyone off the couch and swinging both body and remotes to play games, many of which involve 4 players. Included also is a free black remote that integrates the new Wii Motion Plus technology into the Wii Remote. We particularly liked Trigger Twist, where everyone shoots a series of enemies, including dinosaurs and aliens, to avoid being eaten. Especially interesting is Spooky Search, which is the first game I’ve played that simulates activity happening behind you and off-screen that you have to interact with using only sound. Simple, yet oddly compelling, is Pose Mii Plus, which requires users to turn Wii Mii avatars in different poses to go through a series of tunnels. We think these core Nintendo games for families are a great way to get everyone involved, including pre-readers, in ways that stimulate the imagination and create a shared experience rather than a retreat from human interaction. Ages 5 and up. www.nintendo.com/

Whatcha think?